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Nancy Lopez: 1957—: Golfer

An Early Success

Lopez, who grew up in Roswell, New Mexico, began playing golf at the age of eight, with her father, Domingo Lopez, an avid golfer, as her coach. Four years later, when she was twelve, she won the New Mexico Women's Amateur tournament. Lopez told Richard Lemon in People Weekly, "I was so scared I always threw up. I carried a trash can with me. My dad told me, 'If you're going to play golf, you've got to get over being sick.' I didn't want to quit, so I decided to get over it."

Lopez also faced other obstacles to her progress. Because her family was of Mexican descent, her parents were not allowed to join the Roswell country club and she had to play in Albuquerque, 200 miles away. A writer for Latino Sports Legends commented that her intense competitive drive and "the fact that she was a Mexican-American winning so many tournaments did not sit well with others, but that didn't discourage her."

In 1972 and 1974 Lopez won the USGA Junior Girls Championship. In 1975 she won the Western Junior three times, as well as the Mexican Amateur. Her high school did not have a girls' golf team, so she played on the boys' team and helped them win two state championships.

Lopez attended the University of Tulsa for two years in 1976 and 1977; during her time there, she won the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women National Championship and was a member of the U.S. Curtis Cup and World Amateur teams. In 1976 she was named 1976 All-American and also won the university's Female Athlete of the Year award. After two years at the university, Lopez decided to leave to pursue a professional golf career. Although her career was an instant success, her mother died from a heart attack before ever seeing Lopez win a professional tournament. Lopez's father encouraged her to continue playing despite this tragedy.

At a Glance . . .

Born Nancy Lopez on January 6, 1958, in Torrence, California; married Tim Melton, 1978; divorced, 1981; married Ray Knight, 1982; three children: Ashley Marie, Erinn, Torri. Education: Attended University of Tulsa 1976-77. Religion: Southern Baptist.

Career: Professional golfer, 1978-.

Awards: Rookie of the Year, 1978; LPGA Championship, 1978, 1985, 1989; 48 LPGA Tour Victories; Curtis Cup Team, 1976; Vare Trophy; 1978, 1979, 1985; Leading Money Winner, 1978, 1979, 1985; Bob Jones Award, 1988; LPGA Hall of Fame, 1989; Hispanic Heritage Award, 1997.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: C(hristopher) J(ohn) Koch Biography - C.J. Koch comments: to Sir (Alfred Charles) Bernard Lovell (1913– ) BiographyNancy Lopez: 1957—: Golfer Biography - An Early Success, Became Professional Golfer, Won Her Third Lpga Championship, Experienced Health Problems